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‘Greatest Hits’ albums. ‘Singles Collections’. Everyone knows that more often than not they signal the start of a downward spiral for your favourite band. Obviously I bought last year’s Intergalactic Sonic 7s, but I filed it away in my CD rack with the rest of my Ash records, breathed a deep sigh and said farewell to the band who’d provided a soundtrack for my teen years.
At least that’s what I thought. If it was really goodbye, I wouldn’t be back watching them again tonight now would I? This one-off Manchester gig nearly didn’t happen because Tim Wheeler was hospitalised the previous evening, with ‘swollen arms’. Odd. But luckily his Popeye-esque limbs shrunk back to their normal (albeit miniature) size, and the show goes ahead. Which is just as well, because the Celtic pop-meisters have got something to prove.
When I read that Ash’s new material was exploring ‘electronic’ avenues, I was more than dubious. The last thing anyone wants is a repeat of Nu-Clear Sounds, right? Well, from the four new songs debuted tonight there is not a drum machine nor synthesiser in sight (thank God ‘Candy’ has been omitted from the set). The likes of ‘On A Wave’ and ‘Evil Eye’ are bouncy, brilliant, ball-breaking pop songs and I can’t wait to hear them on record. And anyone who thinks that they’re past it now they’ve reached their mid-twenties can just get lost. If it’s youngsters with guitars you want, then go listen to Busted. But please don’t.
As for the old classics, the lads (et ladette) storm through them with enough energy to light the Blackpool seafront. Oooh I feel like I’m fourteen again. ‘Oh Yeah’ reminds me of my first crush, ‘Sometimes’ reminds me of my first break-up, ‘Girl From Mars’ reminds me of my first extra-terrestrial experience….it’s a right trip down memory lane I tell ye.
I’ve spent nearly a whole decade defending Ash now. Yeah, yeah so Tim doesn’t always sing in tune, and none of their songs are too complex musically, but sod it! They write perfect, summery pop songs with delicious harmonies, and since when did that do harm to anyone? Just stop taking music so seriously for a second. Dust off your cassette copy of 1977, close your eyes and jump around like a giggly pre-pubescent. Fun innit?
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